Trump is blackmailing the GOP — but they can get out of it: columnist
President Donald Trump (AFP / Mandel NGAN)

The Republican Party has slowly surrendered to Donald Trump, who has cooked up a new blackmail scheme against the party he controls, according to an NBC News columnist.

The GOP didn't even bother to submit a national platform ahead of the 2020 election, instead saying the party's only priority was Trump's re-election, and the twice-impeached one-term president has issued a new threat to ensure Republicans remained focused on undoing that humiliating loss, according to a column by political scientist Seth Masket posted on NBC News.

"After President Joe Biden's victory, however, Trump has been very clear and consistent about what he believes in and what he expects his party to do: overturn the 2020 presidential election," wrote Masket, a professor of political science and director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver.

The former president demanded a new election immediately or the decertification of the last election, with him declared winner, or he would undermine the GOP's chances of winning in 2022 and 2024, as he did in Georgia's runoffs in January.

"Trump could do this again," Masket wrote. "As [Sen. Lindsey] Graham noted, Trump may not have many concrete policy ideas, but he could seriously damage the party by asking his base to stay home. To quote Frank Herbert's 'Dune,' 'The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it.'"

There's a relatively normal contest going on for the GOP presidential nomination for 2024, with Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence and others visiting early states and meeting with prospective donors, but Masket said it's not normal to have a former president steering the party's agenda through blackmail threats aimed at subverting democracy itself.

"It was no small thing for the Republican Party to end up in this position, and it will be no small thing for it to get itself out of it," Masket wrote. "Assuming Republicans want to be free of this situation and want a relatively normal presidential nomination contest without serious threats of ending democratic elections (and yes, quite a few Republicans still desire this), they will need to collectively push back against Trump and refuse to support his candidacy."

The entire party must refuse Trump's blackmail, he argued, but there's no recent evidence to suggest that will happen.

"Nevertheless, for one of the country's two major parties to commit itself to the destruction of democratic elections is a terrifying thing for the country," Masket wrote.